Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Photographers targeted again

Police stopI’m not some sort of campaigning activist, but I have enjoyed photography as a hobby for years, and until recently was able to carry out that pastime without worrying about who or what I was photographing, or who or what was watching me. One reason I mention this subject is because the authorities can now always be seen photographing and videoing everyone, with little or no way to stop them, yet they are being given increasing powers to limits individuals returning the favour, and can even force them to hand over what they have photographed.

Thanks to the media, I now find myself looking over my shoulder in case there are children or a school somewhere nearby, lest some concerned citizen decides to take a swipe at the paedophile they have just caught. It seems that every Jobsworth is out to impress their boss if they can chase someone with a camera off “their private land”, or at least block the view if they somene taking a picture of their premises. In the good old days, the only time I ever exercised a little extra caution was when taking pictures in the less salubrious of Glasgow city, in the hidden corners of the Clyde, or found myself beside rather too may locals enjoying a bevvy at the nearby pub. At least discretion is still voluntary, and you can at least talk to ordinary people, and maybe get them interested.

I certainly didn’t worry if I saw the police, or if there was any sort of incident going on around me and I was carrying a camera, even if it tended to be an SLR with a reasonably long lens.

I don’t usually include articles in total, but this one falls in the category of being important, because what happens down south generally becomes the model for what follows up here, especially in terms of nationally relevant subject, so the following article from the Guardian appears complete: The Met’s attack on photographers | Marc Vallée | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Today the Metropolitan police service (MPS) issued advice to the public and the media on photography in public places. It details the Met’s interpretation of anti-terrorism legislation, and how these laws should be used against photographers. Professional photographers such as myself view it as part of an ongoing campaign to create a hostile environment for photography in the public sphere.

The advice covers section 44, section 43 and section 58a of the Terrorism Act 2000 (58a is more commonly known as section 76). On sections 44 and 43, the MPS say that “officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched”.

Hickman & Rose’s Anna Mazzola argues this advice is highly questionable as it “does not take into account the fact that such images may be protected journalistic material – for example, special procedure material.”

Did the MPS seek legal guidance before they distributed this “advice”? Because rather than clarifying the Met’s position, it looks set to cause yet more confusion. As Mazzola says: “If the police truly want to convince journalists that they are committed to allowing freedom of expression and to enabling members of the press to do their jobs, then they should engage with these issues rather than issuing guidance which is likely to hamper them.”

A key issue for photographers is section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, which came into force at the beginning of this year. It amends the Terrorism Act 2000 to make it an offence to elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been a member of the armed forces, intelligence services, or a police officer in Great Britain – this has been an offence in Northern Ireland since 2000.

The Home Office claimed that photographing police officers would only be deemed an offence in “very exceptional circumstances”, they added that “for the offence to be committed, the information would have to raise a reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to provide practical assistance to terrorists”.The MPS advice says that section 76 (58a) “should ordinarily be considered inappropriate to use… to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests”

Photographers will remain deeply concerned. On Tuesday I was on a panel at the Frontline Club to discuss the way anti-terrorism legislation affects the media. The question arose, has section 76 been used in a public order context to stop photographers documenting dissent? The answer is yes, I am aware of two occasions on which it has been.

On 21 March 2009, in Bedford – at a protest outside Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre – a Bedfordshire police sergeant questioned Justin Tallis, a press photographer and NUJ member, on why he was taking pictures of police officers. Tallis claims that the officer stopped him from working and claimed that under new counter-terrorism powers Tallis could not take pictures of the police. The sergeant later said via his constabulary’s press bureau that he had in fact had a “long discussion about the legislation” but at no point did he “use the legislation”. This is not how Tallis remembers the incident and either way Tallis was prevented from doing his job.

On 12 March 2009, a second press photographer and NUJ member – who does not want to be named – was stopped outside the RampArt community centre in east London under section 76. He was covering an attempt to evict squatters from the centre. Ten police officers – two of whom were plainclothes officers wearing reflective police jackets without identifying numbers – were assisting security guards hired by the owner to carry out the eviction.

“While photographing a scuffle between police officers and squatters one of the plainclothed police officers told me that I could not photograph him under section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act,” said the photographer. “He warned me that if I continued I could be arrested. I responded by saying that if he thought that my photographs of squatters in east London being evicted could aid a terrorist organisation then he was welcome to arrest me.” The police officer took no further action.

In February, I predicted that section 76 would fit nicely alongside other blunt instruments such as section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which has had a huge impact on photography in a public places.

This is why over 400 photographers took part in a protest outside New Scotland Yard on the day that section 76 came into force. Photographers don’t fear ending up in court, but they are deeply concerned that the threat of arrest will be used to prevent them doing their job. I wonder how many more photographers will find themselves having “long discussions about the legislation” on the street. The Met’s advice will do little to help them. Section 76 should be scrapped.

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July 9, 2009 Posted by | photography, Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

New powers… will they be used, or abused?

Police stopOver the past few months I’ve posted articles watching the steady erosion of freedom in this country as terrorism is used as some sort of Free Pass for any and all legislation aimed at increasing the State’s power over the citizen, while the citizen is left powerless under the relentless of gaze of CCTV, the collection of their DNA, personal data regarding email, web browsing and phonecalls. And then there’s the detestable Phorm being foist on us as well.

I’ve already covered new powers that came into force in February, with Your next photograph could be a crime, and posed the question then as to whether or not these powers would be used, or more likely abused. On the basis that the police are already clearly ignorant of the law regarding photography in public places, and are not properly trained in this area, my thought was that the answer had to be yes.

I don’t generally like or adopt what I refer to as the lazy bloggers method of filling a blog, which involves just dropping another story on the basis that it is a quote, but in this case, since readers might think I’m making it up, I am indeed quoting the full article  for review, which details an allegation that Austrian tourists were forced by the police to delete photographs of a bus station in London after being told that photographing anything to do with transport was “strictly forbidden”, and had their details recorded by the police, including passport numbers and hotel addresses.

Because I usually have my camera with me, and use it daily in public, I’m beginning to feel as if I should start to leave my itinerary with someone, together with a time I expect to return home, and have them check the local police stations if don’t return at the expected time.

Original article from The Guardian, Thursday, April 16, 2009: Police delete London tourists’ photos ‘to prevent terrorism’

Like most visitors to London, Klaus Matzka and his teenage son Loris took several photographs of some of the city’s sights, including the famous red double-decker buses. More unusually perhaps, they also took pictures of the Vauxhall bus station, which Matzka regards as “modern sculpture”.

But the tourists have said they had to return home to Vienna without their holiday pictures after two policemen forced them to delete the photographs from their cameras in the name of preventing terrorism.

Matkza, a 69-year-old retired television cameraman with a taste for modern architecture, was told that photographing anything to do with transport was “strictly forbidden”. The policemen also recorded the pair’s details, including passport numbers and hotel addresses.

In a letter in today’s Guardian, Matzka wrote: “I understand the need for some sensitivity in an era of terrorism, but isn’t it naive to think terrorism can be prevented by terrorising tourists?”

The Metropolitan police said it was investigating the allegations.

In a telephone interview from his home in Vienna, Matka said: “I’ve never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries.”

He described his horror as he and his 15-year-old son were forced to delete all transport-related pictures on their cameras, including images of Vauxhall underground station.

“Google Street View is allowed to show any details of our cities on the world wide web,” he said. “But a father and his son are not allowed to take pictures of famous London landmarks.”

He said he would not return to London again after the incident, which took place last week in central Walthamstow, in north-east London. He said he and his son liked to travel to the unfashionable suburbs.

“We typically crisscross cities from the end of railway terminals, we like to go to places not visited by other tourists. You get to know a city by going to places like this, not central squares. Buckingham Palace is also necessary, but you need to go elsewhere to get to know the city,” he said.

He said the “nasty incident” had “killed interest in any further trips to the city”.

Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and a Green party member of the London assembly, said she would raise the incident with the Met chief, Sir Paul Stephenson, as part of discussions on the policing of the G20 protests.

“This is another example of the police completely overreaching the anti-terrorism powers,” she said. “They are using it in a totally inappropriate way.

“I will be raising it with the commissioner. I have already written to him about the police taking away cameras and stopping people taking photographs and made the point that if it was not for people taking photos, we would not know about the death of Ian Tomlinson or the woman who was hit by a police officer.”

A spokeswoman for Metropolitan police said: “It is not the police’s intention to prevent tourists from taking photographs and we are looking to the allegations made.” The force said it had no knowledge of any ban on photographing public transport in the capital.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Living or photographing dangerously

With the recent arrival of the amendments to the Terrorism Act 2000, Your next photograph could be a crime, I found myself being drawn to live a little dangerously and point my camera in places that it would not normally look, or be interested in.

The first was the chance opportunity to snap one of our local police vans, unattended in this case, so no police officers within or nearby for me to cause any fear or concern for their safety as a result of being in front of my camera…

Lonesome police van

Lonesome police van

The second was a turn into some side streets I hadn’t explored before, and on this occasion I spotted some mutant animals employed in waste management in the playground of a primary school. I don’t know if these are scarier than me, but as a person with a camera taking photographs of a primary school, I now feel as if I’m at risk of being challenged by someone, or stopped and questioned by police and asked to justify why am where I am, and what the purpose of my photography is. If I’m lucky, some street vigilante won’t run up and beat me to the ground, assuming me to be some kind of child molester if the media is anything to go by.

quarrybrae01

We don't bite, honest

As for a police interview, I expect to be locked up after giving answers such as “I’m here because I just happened to be out for a walk and decided to turn into this street at random”, and as for why, “I’m taking the photographs because I spotted the animal waste bins and thought they made an interesting shot”.

If I stand still and don't move, they'll arrest the photographer now, not me

If I stand still and don't move, they'll arrest the photographer now, not me

I can almost hear the cell door slamming closed behind me already.

Forbidden pictures might become a future theme while I’m wandering around in future.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 1 Comment

Your next photograph could be a crime

policestopWe pre-empted this issue a few weeks ago, Take care when taking photographs, but the actual arrival of something as dire as this piece of legislation in a country parents and grandparents fought for,  and gave their lives to keep free, is worthy of more than just one brief mention.

Monday, February 16, 2009, made life in Britain just a little – or perhaps a lot – more difficult to survive without ending up on police files, as new laws came into force, Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008. From that day, anyone taking a photograph of a police officer could be deemed to have committed a criminal offence. It permits the arrest of anyone found “eliciting, publishing or communicating information” relating to members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers, which is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

(Your scribe can empathise with that view, having received the benefit of a grilling from young police officers fresh out of police college and eager to put their “assertiveness training” into use for – believe it or not – not driving fast enough in the early hours of the morning – “Your behaviour is very suspicious”. For the record, I was approaching a red traffic light on an otherwise deserted road! This was quite unlike the more usual stop-check of car and driver usually attracted from more senior officers at the same hour.)

That means anyone taking a picture of one of those people could face a fine or a prison sentence of up to 10 years, if a link to terrorism is proved.

The National Union of Journalists organised a “mass picture-taking session” outside New Scotland Yard on Monday, in protest. Neil Turner, of the British Press Photographers’ Association said, “The problems we can see arising are with junior officers using the legislation to overcome situations they find uncomfortable”

In a statement, Number 10 said that while there were no legal restrictions on taking pictures in public places, “the law applies to photographers as it does to anybody else. So there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations, inflame an already tense situation, or raise security considerations.”

Photographers could therefore be asked to “move on” for the safety of themselves or others.

“Each situation will be different and it would be an operational matter for the police officer concerned as to what action should be taken,” the statement added.

Scotland is part of the UK

An interesting question was posed to me, “Does this law apply in Scotland?”

For the record, I did read some of the Act, and paragraph 91, Extent, confirms that it covers the whole of the United Kingdom.

Will it be used?

I did a little background reading into the effect of the Terrorism Act 2000 (interestingly, often mis-quoted as the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 in the media) and found that while I would be loath to say it was being misused, it does provide a indication that more than a little attention should be payed to the use of Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008.

According to a report in the Telegraph, published only on January 5, 2009:

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to stop 62,584 people at railway stations and another 87,000 were questioned under “stop and search” and “stop and account” legislation.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker, who uncovered the figures, warned that Britain was heading towards a “police state”.

The Liberal Democrat MP added: “While it is important to be vigilant about the threat of terrorism to the transport network, the sheer scale of the number of people stopped by police on railway property is ridiculous.”

No one is laughing

Frankly, it’s yet another sign that the so-called “War on Terrorism” is long lost, and the winners were not the people.

While you and I are photographed, filed, and tracked by CCTV and ANPR systems 24 hours a day and 7 days per week while we walk and drive around the country, unable (as honest citizens) to “borrow” cars not traceable to us, or prevent those images being recorded.

As someone else once said back in 1967, “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered! My life is my own.”

As I write, I’m reminded of the maxim of the place where that quote came from, “A still tongue makes a happy life” – perhaps I should stop writing.

Then again, there, they also said, “Of the People, by the people, for the people.

Perhaps I might find myself at the receiving end of the same comment as the author of the first quote given above:

Chairman: “We deplore your spirit of disharmony.”
No.6: “That’s a common complaint around here, isn’t it?”
–A Change of Mind

Only problem is, my observations aren’t about a fictional society. I actually feel as if I’m writing a Cold War article which includes references to the operation of the Stasi.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 4 Comments

Take care when taking photographs

policestopThere’s little point in me rewording this, as the original opening wording from the British Journal of Photography sums things up, but it looks as if you had better start keeping your camera out of sight if you see the police nearby…

The relationship between photographers and police could worsen next month when new laws are introduced that allow for the arrest – and imprisonment – of anyone who takes pictures of officers ‘likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.

Set to become law on 16 February, the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 amends the Terrorism Act 2000 regarding offences relating to information about members of armed forces, a member of the intelligence services, or a police officer.

The new set of rules, under section 76 of the 2008 Act and section 58A of the 2000 Act, will target anyone who ‘elicits or attempts to elicit information about (members of armed forces) … which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.

A person found guilty of this offence could be liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, and to a fine.

The wording if the law is suitably vague to be used as a catch-all in the same way that a Breach of Peace has been degraded.

The BJP article is accompanied by an account of one professional photographer who was accused of intimidating a police officer by taking a photograph and then refusing to hand his camera over, and an earlier account of an amateur photographer taking pictures of ships in Cleveland. The photographer was asked if he had any terrorism connections and told that his details would be kept on file.

Even before this act comes into force, taking photographs in public is not without its unexpected hazards, as described in this example given by Liberty:

In December, freelance press photographer Jess Hurd was detained for more than 45 minutes after she was stopped while covering the wedding of a couple married in Docklands.

She was detained under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Her camera was forcefully removed from her, and while she showed her press card, three police officers insisted on viewing the footage she had taken.

‘Any officer who suspects an offence has been committed has the right to detain you,’ a Metropolitan press officer told BJP at the time. ‘Because you are a press photographer does not preclude you from being stopped under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. If the officer thought the photographer acted suspiciously, and especially if it was in a sensitive place, he had a right to detain and question the photographer.’

This seems to be an increasingly popular subject for restriction, for while on the one had there are no restrictions on taking pictures in a public place, there seems to be in increasing number instances where someone pops up and says something like,”The law applies to photographers as it does to anybody else in a public place. So there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations or raise security considerations” (so said Downing Street).

It seems strange that the authorities are giving themselves increasing powers which they can exercise in order to restrict the opportunities where the public can take and record their imagers, but are still increasing the number of CCTV cameras and systems that are watching the public, and which the public have little or no say on regarding the images recorded and stored of them.

We probably have the scenario where we can have police sent to interrogate someone seen taking photographs on CCTV, have their details recorded and filed, yet they would be breaking the law by recording the images of those same police officers as they carried out that interview, lest they feel intimidated.

You have to wonder just who is winning in the so-called War on Terrorism.

It used to be bad enough when you could fall foul of the law by unwittingly standing on a piece of private ground to get a pic, and end with a lawyers letter or other threat, but now it seems you can be challenged by any Jobsworth, even in open public.

At least the worst that has happened to me so far was getting thrown out of the detestable Princes Square bling market in Glasgow, yes, for being seen taking photographs by security. Never been back, never will, or would anyway.

February 7, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , | 3 Comments

Rothesay pier fence farce trundles on

The farcical story of the fence on Rothesay’s pier has now swung all the way from legal necessity demanded by current legislation relating to shipping and anti-terrorism measures, all the way to being completely unnecessary – other than as a temporary erection when the occasional cruise ship visits the Isle of Bute.

In between it has involved definite statements from councillors claiming the fence is a requirement, is not a requirements, is never going to happen, and was always going to happen.

Whatever else, they’re going to be able to claim they made the correct statement – even if it was just the luck of the draw as a result of multiple choice.

Reading back issues of The Buteman will even show that while it may not have descended to the level of name-calling, it may as well have given the acrimonious exchanges and back-pedalling that have arisen latterly.

This week has seen Alan Reid, Westminster MP for Argyle and Bute visit the offices of the local newspaper.

Last week, Councillor Robert Macintyre had harsh words for the island’s MP, who, he said, was guilty of making “ill-founded” and “unhelpful” comments on the subject of the fence.

Mr Reid provided the newspaper with a reply he had received from Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, which stated that the only fencing that the Department for Transport requires at Rothesay Pier is temporary fencing during the occasional visit from a cruise ship. He went on to say, “Jim Fitzpatrick’s letter shows that all the talk from the council about the Westminster Government requiring a two or three metre high permanent fences at Rothesay Pier was complete nonsense. A three foot fence to stop people falling into the water makes sense, but higher permanent fencing is not a Department of Transport requirement. The council were aware of this in July and said then that no permanent fencing would be put up, so I don’t understand why they’ve done a U-turn since then and now want to build a two metre high fence on part of the pier.”

I’m tempted to add a comment, but I’d better not, and will just sit quietly and await the next act.

No, on second thought I will add a short comment -this is really sad.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rothesay pier fence farce

In what seems to have become an almost classic example of why you should never listen to or believe anything that anyone involved in any sort of politics tells you, the story of the fence for Rothesay’s pier looks set to become a benchmark.

We first noticed this beginning of this epic fantasy tale towards the end of June, when See Rothesay, See Alcatraz was noted. At this stage we noted:

Now, it seems that Rothesay pier is to be permanently closed to the public by an eight foot high security fence topped with barbed wire, and it’s due to be installed mid-August, the busiest time of the year as the Bute Highland Games take place then. The fence will stretch from the Albert Pier to the moorings, with gaps for passengers and vehicles.

The fence will be supported by 3-metre tall steel posts, spaced at 3 metre intervals, carrying welded mesh steel sheets 2.5 metres high, and topped of by three strands of barbed wire.

The fence is said to be needed to comply with the Department of Transport’s ‘Transec’ policy on the protection of passengers, ports and shipping.

The question of Planning Permission for the installation was raised, but brought the response that it would probably be classified as “permitted development”.

Councillor Isobel Strong added: “I think this is security gone mad. Do the powers that be think that Rothesay is in the forefront of international terrorism, and that a high fence with barbed wire is necessary?”

A few day later, at the start of July, we followed up with Rothesay pier security fence on temporary hold, when a delay was announced in order for further consideration of the design and necessity for the fence to be given by those responsible.

A few days later it seemed that Alcatraz on the Clyde may be curtailed, when we observed:

Bute councillor Robert Macintyre perhaps summed things up more tactfully, “I think the regulations have been somewhat misinterpreted by our officials”, when quote in this week’s Buteman. Councillor Macintyre was further quoted as saying, “At this stage I would say there is some dubiety about the height of, and maybe even the need for, a fence”.

After the passage of another few days, we had made it past the middle of July when we announced Escape from Alcatraz, and the following quotation:

“I confirm that there is now no question of our erecting a permanent structure – it simply is not going to happen.”

So said councillor Duncan MacIntyre, Argyll & Bute Council transport spokesperson, as quoted in this week’s Buteman article on the subject of the proposed 3 metre steel security fence and its topping of three strands of barbed wire.

The fence was initially claimed to be needed to comply with the Department of Transport’s ‘Transec’ policy on the protection of passengers, ports and shipping. Then, in the face of the resultant outcry, it transpired that things might not be quite right and that this insanity had been dreamed up by someone who had been reading the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which applies to ships larger than five hundred gross tonnes in weight, and making voyages in international waters. Quite which of their brain cells was responsible for equating this code to the likes of Bute ferries will probably never be known, but it should be pensioned off sharpish if it is ever found.

While the news is welcome, after reading the carefully chosen words of the authority, I find myself remaining concerned about the future for free access to the area of Rothesay pier by members of the public – that’s you and me.

I dislike articles dependent on carefully selected short quotes, generally taken out of context to change their meaning, and commend you to read the full article to confirm that while I am indeed making a few carefully selected quotes, these are only for the purpose of review.

From the first quote given above, we have a specific reference to “no question of our erecting a permanent structure”, which leaves the door open for temporary structures.

That looked like the end of the matter (if the statements were to believed) but I wasn’t holding my breath in anticipation, and sure enough, at the beginning of October we were able to roll on the fence story again with It’s Health & Safety madness time again, and this pulled the famous H&S card out of the pack as we observed:

After reporting that some sort of Common Sense had miraculously taken over from the insanity, it seems that those in power have taken umbrage, and are determined to see a fence installed on Rothesay’s pier “By any means necessary”.

Having failed to achieve their initial aim of a three metre steel fence topped with barbed wire, necessary to meet the increased threat of terrorism, the new plan is to install a mere two metre fence, and forget the barbed wire – and it seems it will be a nice, calming blue.

This seems to contradict the last report from a few weeks ago, where we were quoted:

“I confirm that there is now no question of our erecting a permanent structure – it simply is not going to happen.”

So said councillor Duncan MacIntyre, Argyll & Bute Council transport spokesperson, as quoted in this week’s Buteman article on the subject of the proposed 3 metre steel security fence and its topping of three strands of barbed wire.

Councillors defend fence

After all the above, all three councillor have now joined to defend the installation of the two metre fence on Rothesay pier, as reported in this week’s Buteman article.

Reporting on last week’s community council meeting, we are told community councillor Peter Lingard said it was his clear impression that the fence was "not going to take place".

But Councillor Len Scoullar replied: "I always knew there was going to be a fence. You couldn’t have youngsters playing about in there while the boat is docking – it’s dangerous. Look at Wemyss Bay. All the working area there is restricted too."

Cllr Isobel Strong added "whatever regulations there have been in place before have now been superseded", while Cllr Macintyre added: "I can’t imagine the pier not having any means of regulating where cars can go and where people can go.  I just don’t understand all the hullabaloo about a fence of a similar height to the one that has always kept folk walking in the right place. I can’t understand why certain people seem to think that it’s absolutely abhorrent to have any type of fencing down at the pier. Remember that it is the year 2008."

Comment

I could go on endlessly about this now, but think it may be more pertinent to observe that the issue now is probably less about the fence, and more about the credibility of those who are supposed to represent the wishes of the people they are supposed to represent.

Having gone first from a fence proposal, to a proposal consideration and withdrawal, we are now in a position where we have a no proposal, a fence under construction, and an appeal from Councillor Macintyre:

“I would ask people to give it a chance. See what it looks like and make your views known then – don’t add to the storm in a teacup some people are making at the moment.”

So we have to go to the expense of building the fence, then deciding whether ot not we like it, and if not, having it removed – who’ll pay for that then? The councillors? The taxpayers?

Time to get get used to the new fence I think, like it or not.

Maybe someone will come up with the bright idea of extending it and adding barbed wire in a few years “For security purposes”.

October 26, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Health & Safety madness time again

On the fence

On the fence

After reporting that some sort of Common Sense had miraculously taken over from the insanity, it seems that those in power have taken umbrage, and are determined to see a fence installed on Rothesay’s pier “By any means necessary”.

Having failed to achieve their initial aim of a three metre steel fence topped with barbed wire, necessary to meet the increased threat of terrorism, the new plan is to install a mere two metre fence, and forget the barbed wire – and it seems it will be a nice, calming blue.

This seems to contradict the last report from a few weeks ago, where we were quoted:

“I confirm that there is now no question of our erecting a permanent structure – it simply is not going to happen.”

So said councillor Duncan MacIntyre, Argyll & Bute Council transport spokesperson, as quoted in this week’s Buteman article on the subject of the proposed 3 metre steel security fence and its topping of three strands of barbed wire.

This new structure is to be installed on Health & Safety ground, apparently because there is a risk that ropes being thrown to the shore from vessels which are berthing might hit people standing on the pier, and make sure the public can’t get access to the machinery of the passenger gangway.

Tim Saul, the chairman of Bute Marketing and Tourism Ltd, told The Buteman: “I suppose it’s a better compromise than a three metre high Colditz-style barrier, but I suspect there will still be some very vocal criticism – especially since piers have been operating quite happily for years and years and years with no need for fences any more than four feet high.”

Alan Reid, Bute’s Westminster MP and Liberal Democrat, said he still needed to be convinced that such a fence is really necessary under health and safety legislation, “Earlier in the summer the council announced their intention to build a three-metre fence, saying that it was a legal requirement. After a public outcry they changed their mind. Now, without any prior warning, they’ve started work on a two-metre fence. I have asked the council why they think this fence is necessary.”

The fence is reported to be costing some £21,000.

The new fence is already being built, whether or not this means it was just started without planning permission or whatever approvals and authorisations, if needed, I don’t know. You can read the details available at the moment in this week’s Buteman article.

At the moment though (and I will be happy to be corrected as I have no access to further information), it looks as if two of the Jobsworth’s favourite tools have been pulled out of the hat: One; start the job without asking, then you shift the focus from what you’ve done to that of the protesters – and blame them for the cost of rectification, and Two; cite Health & Safety as the justification, because then you point out that if anyone is subsequently injured as a result of the protesters’ success, you can point the blame back at them.

cat
more animals

October 3, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Escape from Alacatraz

“I confirm that there is now no question of our erecting a permanent structure – it simply is not going to happen.”

So said councillor Duncan MacIntyre, Argyll & Bute Council transport spokesperson, as quoted in this week’s Buteman article on the subject of the proposed 3 metre steel security fence and its topping of three strands of barbed wire.

The fence was initially claimed to be needed to comply with the Department of Transport’s ‘Transec’ policy on the protection of passengers, ports and shipping. Then, in the face of the resultant outcry, it transpired that things might not be quite right and that this insanity had been dreamed up by someone who had been reading the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which applies to ships larger than five hundred gross tonnes in weight, and making voyages in international waters. Quite which of their brain cells was responsible for equating this code to the likes of Bute ferries will probably never be known, but it should be pensioned off sharpish if it is ever found.

While the news is welcome, after reading the carefully chosen words of the authority, I find myself remaining concerned about the future for free access to the area of Rothesay pier by members of the public – that’s you and me.

I dislike articles dependent on carefully selected short quotes, generally taken out of context to change their meaning, and commend you to read the full article to confirm that while I am indeed making a few carefully selected quotes, these are only for the purpose of review.

From the first quote given above, we have a specific reference to “no question of our erecting a permanent structure”, which leaves the door open for temporary structures.

The Buteman article begins with a similar observation, and notes that senior officials and council member met and “quickly came to the conclusion that there was no need for a permanent barrier”. Again, ruling out only a permanent structure.

The door remains open for future developments under the hysterical anti-terror banner, as councillor MacIntyre went on to say the authority was now “seeking to agree a measured approach in full consultation with local members”.

Whatever happens in future, perhaps the last word is best left with the statement Tim Saul, chairman of Isle of Bute Marketing and Tourism Ltd, gave to The Buteman, “This is a very welcome development – perhaps common sense has prevailed after a fleeting instance of insanity.”

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alcatraz on the Clyde may be curtailed

barbed wire

We’ve been following develpments along the pier at Rothesay, following the announcement that it would be taking on the appearance of the Clyde’s own little Alcatraz, complete with a 3 metre steel plated fence with three strands of barbed wire along the top. Just the sort of welcome to bring the tourists (and their wallets rolling in).

There’s more news this week, to the effect that the fence is not only on hold to allow a review to take place, but that the whole thing might just be the insane dream of some demented little Jobsworth, bent on applying the rules come hell or high water.

Bute councillor Robert Macintyre perhaps summed things up more tactfully, “I think the regulations have been somewhat misinterpreted by our officials”, when quote in this week’s Buteman.

The issue, which arose recently, appears to stem from the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which applies to ships larger than five hundred gross tonnes in weight, and making voyages in international waters.Clearly neither of these criteria apply to the ferries making the half hour crossing from the Scottish mainland to the Isle of Bute, a Scottish island, so hardly an international destination.

Councillor Macintyre was further quoted as saying, “At this stage I would say there is some dubiety about the height of, and maybe even the need for, a fence”.

Rothesay harbour renovation, May 2008

Rothesay harbour renovation, May 2008 © wfmillar

We can only echo the councillor’s further words, where he said he failed to understand the need for this vast array of change, especially since the Bute ferries had berthed overnight at Rothesay pier for many years.

All the developments (and ongoing works), of recent years have changed what used to be a nice place to stand and enjoy the view, together with being able to stand reasonably close to the various vessels were arriving and departing, into a rather unwelcoming place anyway, and it would be nice to have the ending of the works and restrictions as something to look forward to. The attached pics of the current renovation works might make those unfamiliar with the spot wonder what there is to look at, as the place resembles something of a building site, and has since the see wall was built a few years ago, marking the start of most of the civil engineering works (which included a new end-loading linkspan for the ferries), but these are transient, and will be gone in a few years. When that happens, a view across the harbour and bay would be nice, not a slab of metal and some barbed wire.

Back in the days when the biggest upset was the building of the sea wall referred to above, the bringers of doom warned that the new sea wall would block all views of the bay, and ruin the outlook forever. While this was never going to happen – the wall just wasn’t high enough – 3 metres plus wire topping would be enough to spoil things on the front, and not just for those on shore, those arriving would have little to applaud in the new view.

July 11, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rothesay pier security fence on temporary hold

barbed wire

Following our spotting of last week’s story about the plan to erect a 3 metre steel fence topped with three rows of barbed wire on Rothesay pier, to bar public access, it seems that there has been sufficient outcry at this brilliant plan (it seem to forget that anyone can get on the ferry by buying a ticket, or get on the island anywhere else along its open shores) for a temporary hold to have been put on the plan.

The fence was due to be put up between July 22 and August 18, but there will now be a delay while the design, and neccessity, of the fence is given further consideration by those responsible.

Full detail of the revised situation, and the opportunity to register and make your opinion known can be found on the Buteman site.

July 3, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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